Monday, 13 August 2018

Lobbying, part one of five

In 2011, James Cusick and Cahal Milmo produced for the Independent newspaper a special report on political lobbying. The stub of that report is here, but unfortunately not the chart of lobbying firms, their key employees and their significant clients. Since that article, the Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists (ORCL) has been set up. It seemed a useful exercise to compare the current register with the Cusick/Milmo chart so far as is possible with public sources.

The first thing to say is that the chart listed only 26 companies which "[boasted] about their access to the inner sancutms of power". The ORCL lists 159 lobbyists at the time of writing, but not all of the chart's companies have registered. Secondly, only directors, not employees, appear on the ORCL register. Thus, spouses of MPs and former advisers to current ministers who might be thought of as influential do not appear. Thankfully, there is another resource: Powerbase, which "is a free guide to networks of power, lobbying, public relations and the communications activities of governments and other interests. It is a project of Public Interest Investigations and Spinwatch".

My original intention was to follow-up the printed chart, but filling out details of all 26 companies would produce a huge blog post, not to mention taking more than a day's labour. So I shall kick off with some companies which do not appear on both lists.

Starting close to home, we have Haywood Hain which was probably not big enough to bother Cusick and Milmo but surely, with the political connections of Lord Hain, must include lobbying with their other activities and therefore should have registered with the ORCL. One recalls the company's efforts on behalf of the proposed Severn barrage. Perhaps the company's defence would be that they spend more time these days networking in Africa, no doubt preparing for a future outside the EU.

Low Associates (now just LOW and LOWeurope)  was on the Cusick/Milmo chart but soon won a retraction from the Indy. Indeed, they are not registered. but co-founder Brendan Bruce was a director of communications for the Conservative party in the Thatcher years. His fellow founder, Sally Low, is married to the former coalition Minister of Health, Andrew Lansley, who has joined the company after leaving the Commons. So it is hard to see how they can avoid being involved in efforts to influence government. In addition to the politicos at the top, two further associates have worked in government communications and a further three have worked for arms of the EU. 2011 clients included the British Chambers of Commerce.

The PR company Edelman was once registered (it left the ORCL list sometime in 2016), but it is easy to see why Cusick and Milmo thought it worth inclusion in their chart of lobbyists and that it is listed on Powerbase. Edelman had links to three national political parties - Liberal Democrats through Jamie Lundie (the then partner of David Laws and a former adviser to LibDem leaders), Labour through Chris Rumfitt (one of Tony Blair's press officers) and Conservatives through Anthony Marlowe (a former researcher for Justine Greening). Lundie and Rumfitt have moved on but Marlowe is still there and Edelman has also acquired the services of ex-Blair aide Anji Hunter. Clients included Aviva, Diageo, EON, Manchester City FC, News Corp and News International, PepsiCo, Sainsbury, Samsung and Starbucks

Blue Rubicon had a distinct New Labour tinge. Its MD was Chris Norton, former adviser to Alan Johnson. Spencer Livermore, former director of strategy to Gordon Brown and Patrick Loughran, once director of research for Labour and adviser to Gordon Brown were also on board. It is now part of the multinational Teneo, which delisted from ORCL in 2016. Since January 2016, Norton has been Director of Communications (Europe, Middle East and Africa) at Facebook. Spencer Livermore went on to be  campaign director for Labour MPs Douglas Alexander and Michael Dugher for the 2015 UK general election before joining "international insight and strategy consultancy" Britain Thinks in 2016. Clients included Heathrow, British Gas, BP, Coca Cola, Facebook, Shell and Unilever.

Butler Kelly delisted from ORCL in 2014. It had been founded in 1998 by Chris Butler, former Conservative Party MP, political secretary at No. 10 and ministerial special adviser in the Office of Arts and Libraries and the Welsh Office; and Phil Kelly, former Deputy Leader of Islington MBC, Chief Whip on the council, and former adviser to the Labour Shadow Cabinet and former Editor of Tribune. In 2011, it boasted two former Conservative MPs - David Nicholson and Nigel Waterson - and one former Labour member, Parmit Dhanda as consultants. Clients included Calor Gas, Saga and Thames Water.

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